Friday 13 December 2019

England coach Eddie Jones signals intent by omitting nine of hapless World Cup group from first squad

Winger Chris Ashton has been recalled to the England squad
Winger Chris Ashton has been recalled to the England squad

Dylan Hartley, Chris Ashton and Manu Tuilagi have been named in England's Elite Player Squad for the RBS 6 Nations, but the 33-man party includes a number of big-name omissions.

Tom Youngs, Tom Wood, Geoff Parling and Danny Cipriani have all missed out on selection in the first group to be named by new head coach Eddie Jones.

In total there are seven uncapped players with Sam Hill, Josh Beaumont, Jack Clifford, Elliot Daly, Ollie Devoto, Paul Hill and Maro Itoje featuring.

Tuilagi returns to the squad after missing last autumn's World Cup for disciplinary and injury reasons, but last Saturday the centre made his comeback after 15 months out with a groin problem.

Devoto is present as an injury replacement for Tuilagi, enabling England to call upon their British and Irish Lions wrecking ball for the latter stages of the Six Nations once he has proved his fitness at the Tigers.

"We will be without Manu for the Scotland game but we will continue to work with Leicester and Manu and see where he is as the Six Nations progresses," Jones said. "With big European weekends ahead there may be further changes once we assess the fitness of the players."

Joining Tom Youngs, Wood and Parling among the players who appeared at last autumn's World Cup but who have been overlooked are Rob Webber, Brad Barritt, Nick Easter, David Wilson, Ben Morgan and Richard Wigglesworth.

The changes represent radical surgery to the squad selected by Jones' predecessor Stuart Lancaster, but Chris Robshaw is still present. Jones is due to name his captain on January 25 or 26.

Flanker Matt Kvesic, prop Henry Thomas and centre Sam Hill have been included as injury replacements for Dave Ewers, Kieran Brookes and Henry Slade respectively.

"I have spoken to some of the players who have not been selected. Naturally they will be disappointed and that is how it should be," Jones said.

"They know what they need to do to get back into this squad. The door is not shut for anyone. There is no such thing as a shut door because of injuries and loss of form.

"There will always be opportunities to anyone playing consistently well in the Premiership and Europe.

"I am really excited about working with England and together with (coaches) Steve (Borthwick) and Paul (Gustard) we hope to build a team that will reflect the level of talent that exists within the English game."

Of the nine casualties - who have seen England stripped of 297 caps - Tom Youngs will feel the most aggrieved and his absence is a significant surprise.

The Lions player has been in strong form for Leicester this season and was starting hooker throughout the World Cup. His club director of rugby Richard Cockerill stated recently that he should be England captain and the first name on their team sheet.

His absence is partly explained by Jones' admiration for Hartley - the Northampton front-rower is favourite to be named skipper in two weeks' time - but Luke Cowan-Dickie and Jamie George are also higher in Jones' pecking order.

The Australian has taken the unusual step of naming only two scrum-halves in Ben Youngs and Danny Care, with the latter favourite to start the Six Nations opener against Scotland on February 6.

"We have selected a squad of players who we think can go to Murrayfield and win," Jones said.

"This is our number one priority, to start with a win, so we have picked a squad which is a mix of experience and potential.

"The long-term strategy for England is to develop a side who can be the most dominant team in world rugby, so we have chosen a lot of new players on the growth we see in them.

"We see these players growing into England players of the future and developing into a side who can be the best in the world.

"Our aim is to develop a squad where there is depth and competition in every position."

England Elite Player Squad for the RBS 6 Nations:

Forwards: Josh Beaumont (Sale), Dan Cole (Leicester), Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter), Jack Clifford (Harlequins), Jamie George (Saracens), Dylan Hartley (Northampton), James Haskell (Wasps), Paul Hill (Northampton), Maro Itoje (Saracens), George Kruis (Saracens), Matt Kvesic (Gloucester) injury replacement for Dave Ewers (Exeter), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton), Joe Marler (Harlequins), Matt Mullan (Wasps), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Henry Thomas (Bath) injury replacement for Kieran Brookes (Northampton), Billy Vunipola (Saracens), Mako Vunipola (Saracens).

Backs: Chris Ashton (Saracens), Mike Brown (Harlequins), Danny Care (Harlequins), Elliot Daly (Wasps), Ollie Devoto (Bath) injury replacement for Manu Tuilagi (Leicester), Owen Farrell (Saracens), George Ford (Bath), Alex Goode (Saracens), Sam Hill (Exeter) injury replacement for Henry Slade (Exeter), Jonathan Joseph (Bath), Jack Nowell (Exeter), Anthony Watson (Bath), Marland Yarde (Harlequins), Ben Youngs (Leicester).

Who is your sportstar of the year?

Vote in the Irish Independent Sport Star Awards and you could win the ultimate sports prize.

Prizes include, tickets to Ireland's against Scotland in the Six Nations, All Ireland football and hurling final tickets and much more.

Simply click here to register your vote

PA Media

The Left Wing: John Cooney on Ulster's European run and bouncing back from World Cup disappointment

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport